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Linda Davis
Linda Davis
Badge of Courage: The Life of Stephen Crane
ISBN: 0899199348
Badge of Courage: The Life of Stephen Crane
World famous at twenty-four, dead at twenty-eight, brilliant, reckless, and ultimately tragic—Stephen Crane is a dramatic study in contradictions. His most famous work, The Red Badge of Courage, is a classic antiwar novel. Yet Crane longed for military honors of his own and pursued a career as a war correspondent that took him to battlefields in Greece and Cuba. The son of a repressive Methodist minister who preached that novels were a filthy vice, he not only took up writing as a career but engaged in a public battle on behalf of a New York prostitute, which ruined his reputation and cost him the friendship of Police Commissioner Theodore Roosevelt. An Easterner who fancied himself a cowboy, he spent his last years on a ramshackle estate in England, entertaining his close friends Joseph Conrad, Henry James, H. G. Wells, and Ford Madox Ford.

In the first accurate, in-depth biography of this legendary writer, Linda Davis vividly describes Crane's short but endlessly fascinating life. Providing a radically new interpretation, she documents the chronic illness that plagued him from childhood and that accounted for the dramatic risks he continually undertook. Badge of Courage is the first biography to break through the common myths and misconceptions surrounding Crane and offer a full portrait of the man himself and of his literary genius.
—from the publisher's website

Badge of Courage: The Life of Stephen Crane
Program Air Date: September 6, 1998

BRIAN LAMB, HOST: Linda H. Davis, author of "Badge of Courage: The Life of Stephen Crane," where did you get the idea for this book?
Ms. LINDA DAVIS, AUTHOR, "BADGE OF COURAGE: THE LIFE OF STEPHEN CRANE": Well, about 10 years ago, I happened to read Stephen Crane's great short work "Monster," which is not very well-known. It's about a man who saves the life of a child in a fire and is horribly disfigured. He lived, but he lives as a man without a face. And it touched a nerve for me because, when I was eight years old, my father lost his life in a house fire while trying to save me. And ever afterwards, I was tormented by dreams in which I couldn't see his face. And what Crane had done in this novella was write my nightmare, in effect. There are a lot of small scenes, too, that were eerily like what happened to me when I was a child. And I thought: Who was Stephen Crane that he can write this way about a fire? I just had to know, and that's what got me started.
LAMB: Where were you living when your father lost his life?
Ms. DAVIS: I was living in Ft. Rucker, Alabama. My father was a soldier, which Stephen Crane wanted to be at one time. He was a career man and he'd been through the Korean War and he was in flight school in Ft. Rucker. And it was just a house fire. He'd been through combat and all, and lost his life in a house fire, an irony that Stephen Crane would've appreciated.
LAMB: And you were saved?
Ms. DAVIS: I was saved, but not by my father. My father, I think, had underestimated how hot the fire was. He had to make his way down a hall to my bedroom and was overcome. He actually ended up bypassing my bedroom, ended up in the den right next to our room, found himself next to the desk where the telephone was and managed to call an operator for help. And apparently, a beam dislodged from the ceiling, knocked him unconscious, and then--and he died. In the meantime, one of the--this was on an Army base, Ft. Rucker--one of the men across the street thought to come around to the back to get me out and managed to pull this very heavy screen off--I guess it was the adrenaline going-- and he got me out.
LAMB: Again, you...
Ms. DAVIS: He got the Soldier's Medal for that.
LAMB: Again, you were how old?
Ms. DAVIS: I was eight years old.
LAMB: What do you remem--do you remember it?
Ms. DAVIS: I do. The things I remember are really the things that I've always been aware of remembering since I was a child. I have little patches of memory. I remember, for instance, the smell of the fire, but I don't remember seeing it or seeing smoke. The man who saved my life, who was retired as a lieutenant colonel in the Army, Dale Harbert, told me that when he reached his arm in to pull me out, the smoke was really, really thick in my room and the doctor who examined me later told my mother that just a couple of minutes later, I would've been gone from smoke inhalation. But I don't remember seeing it. Captain Harbert, at the time, told me to keep my head down--don't remember that at all. I just remember this arm kind of reaching through and pulling me out and scraping my knee on a picnic table.
LAMB: Did your dad ever regain consciousness?
Ms. DAVIS: No. No.
LAMB: And you read “The Monster" knowing this, Stephen Crane's novel?
Ms. DAVIS: I knew that it had something to do with a man disfigured in a fire and I was curious about it, but I didn't know any of the details and I didn't know Crane's work at all. I somehow had missed "The Red Badge" and his other great short stories, so...
LAMB: Where were you living when you did this?
Ms. DAVIS: When...
LAMB: When you read “The Monster"?
Ms. DAVIS: When I read “The Monster"? I was living in Massachusetts.
LAMB: Doing what?
Ms. DAVIS: I was in between books at the time. I'd finished my first book and I was casting about for another idea, but I really wasn't thinking of doing another biography, so it kind of came out of the blue.
LAMB: What was your first biography?
Ms. DAVIS: It was of The New Yorker magazine editor Katharine White.
LAMB: And what had gotten you interested in that?
Ms. DAVIS: Well, I was a fan of The New Yorker and of E.B. White's writing in particular. When I was in graduate school in Boston, letters of E.B. White were published and I read it and thought that it was a wonderful love story, really, about a man and his wife in addition to other things. I became very interested in Katharine White and started reading a little bit about her, and then during the summer of 1977, she died and William Shawn wrote an absolutely magnificent obituary on the last page of The New Yorker. And I wrote a condolence note to E.B. White a couple of months later, and that started a correspondence.
LAMB: Before we leave this subject...
Ms. DAVIS: Mm-hmm.
LAMB: ...who was E.B. White and when did he live?
Ms. DAVIS: E.B. White is best-known as a great American essayist and prose stylist and the author of three children's books, including "Charlotte's Web," and he died I think it is exactly 13 years ago this fall. I remember because we went to the memorial service and took our one-year-old daughter, and she was the only baby there, and she'll be 14, so I think it's 13 years ago he died.
LAMB: Did you get to know him at all?
Ms. DAVIS: I did pretty well, yeah.
LAMB: What was he like?
Ms. DAVIS: He was a very shy and very private man, but once you got to know him and he felt comfortable with you, he was very charming, very unpretentious, down to earth, a little bit of a crusty New Englander, very ordinary, not the literary man that you might expect, not a great reader. He read the newspaper. He was a little behind in book reading. He told me that just a few years earlier, he'd finally got around to reading "Gone With the Wind." This is just a few years before I met him.
LAMB: So you read “The Monster"...
Ms. DAVIS: Mm-hmm.
LAMB: ...your first introduction to Stephen Crane, and now here--What?--if I read correctly, eight years later, you got a book. What did you do next?
Ms. DAVIS: After I read “The Monster," you mean?
LAMB: Mm-hmm.
Ms. DAVIS: Well, it was also around that time that there was an article in The New York Times about a new edition of Crane's letters that were coming out edited by Stanley Wertheim and Paul Sorrentino, and there was a very interesting piece in The New York Times by Herbert Mitgang in which Stanley Wertheim said that a very new Stephen Crane emerged in these letters--hundreds of new letters had come on the market. And the Crane of legend proved to be very different from the real Crane. And I did a little research, and seemed that he'd been very underdone as a subject of biography, so it was...
LAMB: Here were have an 1895 picture...
Ms. DAVIS: Mm-hmm.
LAMB: ...of him.
Ms. DAVIS: Mm-hmm.
LAMB: What was he doing in 1895?
Ms. DAVIS: Well, let's see. He had written "The Red Badge of Courage"-- that picture was taken here in Washington, interestingly enough, and he fixed himself up to look nice for the camera. He was becoming famous for "The Red Badge of Courage," and he was here trying to write a political novel, actually, but he gave up on it.
LAMB: Why?
Ms. DAVIS: He just felt that he couldn't understand politicians, couldn't get the hang of 'em.
LAMB: Now I went looking for "The Red Badge of Courage" after reading your book--or, in the middle of reading your book, and I found one of these...
Ms. DAVIS: Mm-hmm.
LAMB: ...for $1, Dover Thrift Editions, Stephen Crane's "Red Badge of Courage," 100 pages. What is this--somebody that's never read this book--and why does it keep Stephen Crane in front of us after all these years?
Ms. DAVIS: Mm. Well, of course, it's considered one of the great novels of the Civil War, if not the greatest novel ever written about the Civil War. It depends on whose point of view it is. I think that the reason it lives and it speaks to us today is that Crane wrote it, as he said, as a psychological portrayal of fear, and even those of us who've never been through combat, never been near a war zone, we all know what it is to be afraid. I think A.J. Liebling put it best when he called it, `It's about a boy in a dragon's wood, and it's timeless.'
LAMB: And when you read this, what was your reaction to it?
Ms. DAVIS: Well, honestly, "The Red Badge" is not my favorite of Crane's works. I think that there are certain passages in it, including the opening paragraph, which are among the most beautiful and arresting in all of literature.
LAMB: Why don't you read it?
Ms. DAVIS: The opening paragraph?
LAMB: Opening paragraph, so people who have never read it can get some sense of...
Ms. DAVIS: I have to put my reading glasses on.
LAMB: Well, I can read it if you don't have your glasses.
Ms. DAVIS: You read it.
LAMB: `The cold passed reluctantly from the earth and the retiring fogs revealed an army stretched out on the hills, resting. As the landscape changed from brown to green, the army awakened and began to tremble with eagerness at the noises of rumors. It cast its eye upon the roads which were growing from long troughs of liquid mud to proper thoroughfares. A river, amber-tinted in the shadow of its banks, purled at the army's feet; and at night, when the stream had become of a sorrowful blackness, one can see across it the red eyelike gleam of hostile campfires set in the low brows of distant hills.' Why is that so special?
Ms. DAVIS: Well, the quality of the writing is absolutely magnificent. I mean, he instantly brings the picture of this army resting--I love the way he places the word `resting' at the end of that sentence--to life, the wonderful changes in colors--it's like a painting. You can just absolutely see this army on the hill.
LAMB: How long did it take him to write this?
Ms. DAVIS: The entire book?
LAMB: "Red Badge of Courage."
Ms. DAVIS: Well, he said himself--and he was not always very accurate and precise about time and dates, but he said himself that he began the book late in his 21st year and finished it early in his 22nd year. Now that would mean the rough draft or a good revised draft. He made alterations after that, and it's awful to think that somebody could've written a masterpiece essentially in about six months, but...
LAMB: But it's real short.
Ms. DAVIS: It is short, yeah, but it's beautifully done.
LAMB: Where did he write it?
Ms. DAVIS: He wrote it at his brother's house in Lakeview, New Jersey, and then he also wrote some of it in New York, in an apartment in New York on the Lower East Side.
LAMB: And when you started out to find out all about Stephen Crane, where'd you go?
Ms. DAVIS: Well, I went to various locations around the United States, to New York--New York State, where he'd gone to school -- in New Jersey.
LAMB: Where did he go to school?
Ms. DAVIS: Well, he went to Syracuse University, where I went as an undergraduate, in fact. He went to Lafayette College, which is no longer in existence, Pennington Seminary. Yes, that's it. Mm-hmm.
LAMB: And how long did he spend in those places?
Ms. DAVIS: Well, let's see. He went away to Pennington Seminary when he was 14. He was there a couple of years. Then he went to Claverack College and Hudson River Institute, which was a semi-military school, for a couple of years. He was at Lafayette for one semester and then at Syracuse for one semester, and that's when his experiment with college ended, as he said.
LAMB: And along the way, did you begin to change your attitude or did you begin to get excited, or what was your reaction to what you were learning?
Ms. DAVIS: Well, I was really excited about writing a biography of him from the very beginning because I felt this deep, deep connection with him. Empathy is the whole key to writing a biography. You don't need to know all the facts up front. And I just liked him better and better as the years went on. I empathized with him more. I just--I really grew to love him as a human being as well as a writer.
LAMB: How long did he live?
Ms. DAVIS: He lived 28 years.
LAMB: What year did he die?
Ms. DAVIS: He died in 1900.
LAMB: Where did he die?
Ms. DAVIS: In Badenweiler, Germany.
LAMB: Did he every marry and have children?
Ms. DAVIS: He did not marry. He had a common-law wife named Cora Taylor who went by the way--by the name of Cora Crane. She was actually legally married to a British officer who would not divorce her. And he never had children that we know of.
LAMB: How did he write about the Civil War without ever seeing battle?
Ms. DAVIS: Well, he was very knowledgeable about the Civil War. One of his older brothers, William, was very, very knowledgeable. He learned a lot from him. He read a lot. It's unclear exactly what books and things he might've read growing up, but in the months preceding the actual writing of the war novel, he was reading old issues of the Century magazine, which for years ran piece--memoirs and pieces on the Civil War--very dry, but they were the sorts of things from which he could pick up a lot of details about army life and camp life. So he was extremely knowledgeable about the facts of the Civil War. Also, when Crane was growing up, there were an awful lot of Civil War veterans around. Crane was born, after all, in 1871, and so there were a lot of veterans for him to talk to.
LAMB: You--actually, reading your book, I felt like I was listening to one of these interviews because there's so much about writing and where he wrote and all that kind of thing. This--back to the Century magazines, where was it that he started reading his first--the first issues of that that got him interested in the Civil War?
Ms. DAVIS: He was at his artist friend Corwin Knapp Linson's studio in New York, and Linson was painting and Crane just wandered in and flopped down on a sofa one day and grabbed these magazines, which Linson collected, and started reading them while his friend was painting. And after a couple of hours or so of reading, he'd fling them down on the floor in hot disgust and say, you know, `These fellows spout eternally of what they did, but they never say how they feel. They are as emotionless as rocks.' And he started getting excited then about writing his own Civil War novel. He wanted to know: What did it feel like to be in a war?
LAMB: So if somebody reads "The Red Badge of Courage," what can they learn about war?
Ms. DAVIS: I think they get a wonderful, wonderful sense of place, of what it feels like to live in an army camp in the time in a makeshift tent, to live on hardtack and coffee, to spend your time endlessly drilling and marching. They'll learn a lot about the tedium of war, not of actual combat but all the waiting that soldiers go through before they actually get into the fight. They will not learn specifics about particular Civil War battles. He rarely mentions--the name Longstreet, General Longstreet, crops up in one of his Civil War pieces, but that's highly unusual. He deliberately omitted all reference to specifics, geographical specifics and names and battles, because he wanted to make his battle a type in order to do what he was trying to do, which was to, as I said, portray fear.
LAMB: When Shelby Foote was here, he told us that when he wrote the Civil War series that he went to all the battlefields on the same day that the battles were fought.
Ms. DAVIS: Mm-hmm.
LAMB: And I notice that Stephen Crane did some of the same, you say in your book. When did he go to the battlefields?
Ms. DAVIS: That was actually later. That was much later than "The Red Badge." He didn't have the money to travel there when he was writing "The Red Badge." He was really poor. His toes were coming through his shoes, just like Henry Fleming's in "The Red Badge." After "The Red Badge" was published, he was commissioned to do some magazine pieces or newspaper pieces on the Civil War, and he was interested in writing a story based on the Battle of Fredericksburg, so he did visit the battlefields then and he did exactly what Shelby Foote did. He visited the battlefields at the time during which the battle occurred.
LAMB: Did it have any impact on him?
Ms. DAVIS: Well, not that you can tell reading "The Little Regiment," which is the story based on the--on Fredericksburg. It's really a wonderful tale. It's a nice companion piece to "The Red Badge." It certainly doesn't seem any more authentic than "The Red Badge" does.
LAMB: When "The Red Badge" was published in this country, it would've been 18...
Ms. DAVIS: '95.
LAMB: What was going on here?
Ms. DAVIS: Oh, what was going on in the world in 1895?
LAMB: What kind of a world did the book come into and...
Ms. DAVIS: Oh.
LAMB: many copies were printed in the first place and how big a success was it?
Ms. DAVIS: Yeah. I'm afraid I've kind of blocked out world events at that time. I don't know what the first printing was. The publisher's records were lost, and so a lot of the details about the printing and--printings are lost.
LAMB: Someplace you refer to 500 copies and I wondered if that was...
Ms. DAVIS: Mm.
LAMB: those days, if they had that small a printing.
Ms. DAVIS: Well, they would have, yeah, but I'm not sure if that was for "The Red Badge."
LAMB: Was it a best-seller?
Ms. DAVIS: It was--it wasn't a best-seller nationwide. In certain areas, it was on the best-seller list on and off, mostly on the Eastern seaboard, but also in the Midwest. It was briefly a best-seller in England.
LAMB: Could you go find reviews on it in the newspapers?
Ms. DAVIS: Yes, it was widely reviewed, mm-hmm.
LAMB: How do you think it survived all these years and, you know, here again, this series, this little--of course, these aren't copyrighted anymore, so they can sell them for a buck, but you know, they got the just long...
Ms. DAVIS: Mm-hmm.
LAMB: ...stands of all these different books in them. But what do you think--what's the main reason?
Ms. DAVIS: Well, I think about what William Faulkner said in his Nobel Prize acceptance speech in the 1950s. He talked about what the duty of the writer is, that it--it is the writer's duty to write about the things that matter: love and honor and pity and compassion and sacrifice--I'm paraphrasing Faulkner--the human heart in conflict with itself. These are the universal things. These are the things that matter. And that's what Crane wrote about in "The Red Badge" and that's what makes it timeless, and the writing is absolutely beautiful.
LAMB: He died in Germany.
Ms. DAVIS: Mm-hmm.
LAMB: Why?
Ms. DAVIS: He had tuberculosis. And Cora, his common-law wife, insisted that he go there to try to save his life. There was something called the Nordrach cure or treatment, but Crane's TB was far too advanced to benefit from it. And, in fact, the trip from England, which is where they were living at the time, probably hastened his death by several months because it was so rough, being jostled by carriage, and it took a while to get there.
LAMB: Why were they living in England?
Ms. DAVIS: Well, he had gone to the Greco-Turkish War in the spring of 1897 as a correspondent. That lasted only a month. Cora followed him there. Because she was something of a scarlet woman, they felt when the war was over, they couldn't really settle together in the United States. They couldn't get married because her husband wouldn't divorce her, and so they decided to move to England, which was more socially tolerant of such liaisons.
LAMB: Where had he met her?
Ms. DAVIS: He had met her in Jacksonville, Florida, before the Spanish-American War.
LAMB: What were the circumstances?
Ms. DAVIS: Well, he'd gone down to Jacksonville to report the Spanish-American War for The New York Journal, and he visited the houses of prostitution in Jacksonville. Hers was the classiest joint in Jacksonville. He was introduced to her there.
LAMB: And how did they fall in love, or did they fall in love?
Ms. DAVIS: Well, apparently, they fell in love. We don't know an awful lot about how Crane felt about her. None of his letters from her have survived as far as we know; none have ever turned up on the market. She was absolutely crazy about him. He seems to have been in love with her at least for a while, but it's a little questionable about whether that just settled into another kind of love later on or not.
LAMB: There is a lot in here about the women in his life.
Ms. DAVIS: Mm-hmm.
LAMB: There were a lot of women in his life...
Ms. DAVIS: Yes, he's...
LAMB: ...for a 28-year-old.
Ms. DAVIS: He was very young.
LAMB: How did he do it all and what were the--here's a page, for instance--let me just show these pictures--there are three pictures, all of the same woman.
Ms. DAVIS: Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm.
LAMB: Amy Leslie. In different times in her life. Who was she? And let's start up here. When was this picture? Do you know?
Ms. DAVIS: OK. Yeah, that's a very early picture, and there's no date on it. It's from the Harvard Theatre Collection. Amy Leslie was the drama critic for the Chicago Daily News, and it is not known exactly how Crane met her. He seems to have met her around 1895 or '96. She was apparently divorced, perhaps not legally divorced yet, but had been estranged from her husband for a long time. We don't know exactly where they met, but they carried on an affair up until the time he went to Jacksonville and got involved with Cora Taylor.
LAMB: And what happened after that? Was there a lawsuit involved in that relationship?
Ms. DAVIS: Yeah, the lawsuit came later on. Amy Leslie had loaned Crane--not loaned Crane, given Crane $800 in November of 1896, I believe, to put in the bank, put in a bank account in her name. Instead of doing that, he gave it to a friend of his in New York, Willis Brooks Hawkins, told him to put it in his own account and then sort of served as his and Amy's banker. Amy went back to Chicago, which is where she lived and worked as a drama critic. Crane was basically living in New York, but at the moment, in Jacksonville.
LAMB: Who was Nellie Crouse of Akron, Ohio?
Ms. DAVIS: She was a girl he met about 1895, a friend of a friend. They had a kind of epistolary romance. He courted her. She wasn't interested in him. He wrote some very revealing letters to her, but nothing ever came of it. I think he met her once or twice.
LAMB: Where did you find all the letters?
Ms. DAVIS: Well, the letters are at various Crane collections around the country. There's a big Crane collection at Syracuse University, one at the University of Virginia. The Amy Leslie letters, Crane's letters to Amy Leslie, are at Dartmouth.
LAMB: Did you go to all those places?
Ms. DAVIS: Yes, I did.
LAMB: And as you're--how long did it take you to do this book in--is eight years the right...
Ms. DAVIS: Yeah, that's--well, it was eight years from the time I started it to the time I finished it, but it was very on and off. There was a period of two years in there I really wasn't working on it at all. I think if I added up the time, it would be more like four years full time.
LAMB: Do you still live in Massachusetts?
Ms. DAVIS: Yes.
LAMB: What city?
Ms. DAVIS: I live in the--a town called Harvard, a little orchard town not far from...
LAMB: Right outside of Boston?
Ms. DAVIS: About an hour from Boston. It's near Concord.
LAMB: And do you do this full time, writing?
Ms. DAVIS: Yes.
LAMB: You married?
Ms. DAVIS: Yes.
LAMB: 'Cause you thank your husband in here, whose name is not Davis.
Ms. DAVIS: Yes. No, it's Chuck Yanikoski.
LAMB: And what's he do?
Ms. DAVIS: He works for a company called American Financial Systems and does some very complicated designing of computer programs, which I don't understand at all.
LAMB: And...
Ms. DAVIS: And he also helps me a lot with my research.
LAMB: And you mentioned you have children. You...
Ms. DAVIS: Yes, two children.
LAMB: How old are they?
Ms. DAVIS: Our daughter is 13, Allie--she's almost 14--son Randy, he's 12.
LAMB: And in your introduction, you thank someone that's been here also, Stephen Oates.
Ms. DAVIS: Yes.
LAMB: What did he do for you?
Ms. DAVIS: Well, Stephen Oates is a good friend of mine. He's an eminent Civil War historian and biographer, and he encouraged me to write a Crane biography about 10 years ago because he felt there was a need for one and he felt that we were a good match.
LAMB: Houghton Mifflin bought this.
Ms. DAVIS: Mm-hmm.
LAMB: Do you have any idea why? Do you remember--were you in on the sale to the company?
Ms. DAVIS: Yeah, it was originally bought by Ticknor & Fields, which is--no longer exists. Houghton Mifflin folded it--I don't know--four or five years ago, I guess, and signed by a different editor who ended up--from the editor I have now. And my--the editor who signed it liked it and the editor who inherited it liked it, and they felt there was a need for a Crane biography.
LAMB: You also thank Stephen Crane's great-nephew...
Ms. DAVIS: Mm-hmm.
LAMB: ...a fellow by the name of Dr. Robert Crane.
Ms. DAVIS: Mm-hmm.
LAMB: Where is he? And what did he have to do with this?
Ms. DAVIS: He's a very private man, so I'm not sure if he wants me to reveal his whereabouts. He does live in the United States and he is a great-nephew of Stephen Crane. He's descended from one of Crane's brothers, and he was kind enough to loan me some family photographs and to answer a couple of questions I had about the family. He's also written some very valuable genealogical papers about the Crane family which corrects errors about Crane.
LAMB: How'd you find him?
Ms. DAVIS: I met him at a conference, actually, at the American Literary--Literature Association some years ago.
LAMB: When you say he's private, what was the first giveaway to you that he was private?
Ms. DAVIS: Gosh, I think he told me--we happened to get into a conversation. There was a lecture about Stephen Crane, and he--I didn't know who he was, and he after a while, I guess, decided to tell me who he was and told me that one of the Crane scholars who knew him well knew that he was very private and didn't give out his name and number and didn't give it out to me, even though he knew I was working on a Crane biography. I think Dr. Crane wanted to size me up for himself before he told me how to get in touch with him.
LAMB: Now I assume because Stephen Crane didn't have any children, there are no direct descendants...
Ms. DAVIS: Mm-hmm.
LAMB: ...and so you--are there a lot of other Cranes around that came from his brothers?
Ms. DAVIS: Not a lot. I understand there are just a few now, and I've never met any of the other ones.
LAMB: How many Cranes were there in the family?
Ms. DAVIS: Well, Stephen Crane was the 14th child in his family, but five of them had died before he was born.
LAMB: His parents are here on this...
Ms. DAVIS: Mm-hmm.
LAMB: Tell us about them.
Ms. DAVIS: Mary Helen Peck Crane was a minister's daughter. The Reverend Jonathan Townley Crane was also a Methodist minister. He was 52 when Stephen was born and she was 45.
LAMB: How long did they live?
Ms. DAVIS: She died when she was 60 years old and Crane was 20. He died at the age of 64, when Stephen Crane was eight. He was the same age when his father died as I was when my father died, another little connection.
LAMB: And you have a picture here of Agnes Crane.
Ms. DAVIS: Mm-hmm.
LAMB: What's the story on her?
Ms. DAVIS: Agnes was Stephen Crane's beloved older sister. He had a couple of sisters, but she was the one he was very close to. She was very literary and aspired to be a writer himself. And she was really a substitute mother for Stephen Crane when he was a little boy, and she also died.
LAMB: Of what?
Ms. DAVIS: I think she died of spinal meningitis--my God, I've forgotten. I'm sorry.
LAMB: How old was Stephen Crane?
Ms. DAVIS: He was 11 or 12, I think, when his sister died.
LAMB: Now his mother...
Ms. DAVIS: Mm-hmm.
LAMB: ...was with the Women's Christian Temperance Union.
Ms. DAVIS: Mm-hmm.
LAMB: In what regard--what did she do?
Ms. DAVIS: Well, she was one of the women who went to temperance meetings and traveled around giving lectures on temperance, on the evils of alcohol. She did a lot of public talks about it. She had a brother who had a problem with alcohol and drinking alcohol was not in keeping with Methodist teaching at that time. And so she did a lot of lecturing.
LAMB: Did Stephen Crane drink?
Ms. DAVIS: He did, but not to excess. He drank a little beer and whatnot, but he was not a heavy drinker.
LAMB: You paint a picture of him, though, from time to time as someone who's not very well-kempt and...
Ms. DAVIS: Mm-hmm. Yeah.
LAMB: I mean, the personal characteristics--where did you find the descriptions of him? And what was the worst kind of thing people would say about him?
Ms. DAVIS: Well, the worst thing people would say about him was that he was a degenerate, he was a drunk and a drug addict, and that came from jealous hack reporters who were jealous of his talent and from the police whom he had alienated when he went up against one of them on behalf of a prostitute he'd seen falsely arrested in 1896. Ever afterwards, the cops were out to smear his name, and they did. And to this day, a lot of people think that Stephen Crane was an alcoholic and a drug addict because of these rumors that started about him.
LAMB: Why were people out to get him?
Ms. DAVIS: Well, the cops--why were the cops out to get him, or...
LAMB: Or anybody. You said a lot of people were jealous of him and...
Ms. DAVIS: Well, I think that a lot of the hack reporters he knew in his days in New York were jealous of his talent. I mean, here was this kid in his early 20s, this brilliant writer who could write circles around most of them with both hands tied behind his back, and that excited a lot of jealousy. He's a very likable person. Wasn't anything about his personality, in particular. I think it was basically jealousy.
LAMB: The names that come up throughout this--at one point you say he was a friend of Theodore Roosevelt's.
Ms. DAVIS: Mm-hmm.
LAMB: When was that, and how long did the friendship last?
Ms. DAVIS: Well, he got to know Theodore Roosevelt in the summer of 1896 when Roosevelt was police commissioner of New York. They were introduced by a mutual friend. Roosevelt was a big fan of Crane's writing. They had dinner a couple of times. There was a little bit of correspondence. They were really just getting to know each other when Stephen Crane happened to be out on the street one night in New York in a bad neighborhood. He was escorting a chorus girl to the subway or the streetcar and went back to find that one of the two girls who were left on the sidewalk had been falsely arrested by this very corrupt policeman, Charles Becker. She accused--he accused her of soliciting. This is one or two in the morning. She wasn't soliciting. Crane was keeping his eye on the two girls to make sure they were safe while he was getting the other one safely home. And she was hauled off to the police station anyway. And against the advice of the desk sergeant, Crane turned up the next day in court to speak up on this prostitute's behalf. She was a prostitute, as it turned out--Dora Clark--but she was not soliciting when she was with Crane.

And it was a big, big mistake for his career. He felt that it was the honorable and the right thing to do, but the cops would not forgive him after that. There was actually an official police hearing afterward a couple of months later. Crane turned up again to testify. The policeman, Becker, was exonerated, but the cops would not forgive Crane after that. He literally could not set foot in New York without the cops trying to arrest him on trumped-up charges. He was finished as a working reporter in New York...
LAMB: So what happened...
Ms. DAVIS: the age of 25.
LAMB: the relationship with Theodore Roosevelt, because don't they pop up later in...
Ms. DAVIS: Yes.
LAMB: ...down in Cuba and...
Ms. DAVIS: Well, Roosevelt apparently tried to persuade him not to testify at the police hearing, that it would be a big mistake. Crane decided to do it anyway because he felt that it would be dishonorable of him not to. And Roosevelt sided with the cops, that was it. They were estranged at that point. A year and a half later, they both turn up in the Spanish-American War; Crane as a reporter, Roosevelt with the Rough Riders at that point.
LAMB: Stephen Crane was a reporter at how many different newspapers?
Ms. DAVIS: Well, he was a reporter for the New York Journal, for the Bachellor- Johnson Syndicate of newspapers, for the New York World in the United States.
LAMB: A journal owned by Hearst.
Ms. DAVIS: Mm-hmm. And Pulitzer's World.
LAMB: And how many different wars did he cover?
Ms. DAVIS: Two, the month long Greco-Turkish conflict in the spring of 1897 and the Spanish-American War, which was 100 years ago this summer.
LAMB: Other names: Joseph Conrad.
Ms. DAVIS: Joseph Conrad.
LAMB: Who is he?
Ms. DAVIS: Well, a great Polish writer who learned to write in English, known for the "Heart of Darkness," and "Lord Jim" and the "Secret Sharer." He...
LAMB: I ought to ask you if you can remember his real name.
Ms. DAVIS: Ah...
LAMB: I didn't write it down.
Ms. DAVIS: Yeah. It's Teodor--I can't pronounce it correctly--Jozef Korzeniowski or something like that.
LAMB: How did he get the name Joseph Conrad?
Ms. DAVIS: He Americanized his name, I believe.
LAMB: Where did they meet?
Ms. DAVIS: They met in England. They were both living in England. They had the same publisher. They were introduced at lunch. Crane expressed a desire to meet Conrad, who was some years older than he was. And it turned out that Conrad had read "The Red Badge" and admired Crane's work, and they hit it off and became very great friends.
LAMB: What was the age difference?
Ms. DAVIS: Crane was in his mid- to late 20s; Conrad was 40. But as his biographer says, `A very old 40.'
LAMB: H.G. Wells.
Ms. DAVIS: H.G. Wells, the English writer, was living in the same neighborhood that Crane was living in, in East Sussex in England.
LAMB: What kind of relationship developed there?
Ms. DAVIS: They were friends, too. They were not as close as Crane and Conrad. Conrad became the great friend of Crane's later years.
LAMB: How was that manifested friendship?
Ms. DAVIS: They would get together when they could for lunch; they would stay at each other's homes, visit each other; they wrote letters.
LAMB: Another name on this list is Willa Cather.
Ms. DAVIS: Willa Cather, yes. Willa Cather was working for the Nebraska Star Journal. She was still in college but she was actually writing a column. She was reviewing plays, I believe. In 1895--early 1895, Crane's "Red Badge" had appeared in a select number of newspapers across the country, including the newspaper she worked for in Nebraska, in an extremely abbreviated and butchered form some months earlier. And he had been sent by the Bachellor-Johnson Syndicate out West as a reporter to gather local color, as Crane put it. And one of his early stops was Nebraska. He was covering a drought there. She was in the office when he was and she tried to draw some conversation out of him during the few days that he was there.
LAMB: What happened to their relationship as time went by?
Ms. DAVIS: They really never had a relationship. They had one really good conversation and that was about it, although she wrote quite a bit about him afterwards.
LAMB: What was--I guess I was going to say relationship, too--but what--the money problems that he had all his life.
Ms. DAVIS: Mm. Uh-huh.
LAMB: Did he ever make any money?
Ms. DAVIS: He did make money. He didn't make a lot of money. He was very quick to sign a contract with D. Appleton for "The Red Badge" because he was really poor and really anxious to have the book published. And he got a bad deal. Instead of having a lawyer, including his brother William, who was a lawyer, look over the contract, he just signed on the dotted line--the first taker. And there was--he got something like--I think--he got no money up front and he was not going to earn any money until the publisher's costs had been recovered. And there was no provision for foreign rights at all.
LAMB: I wrote down here that you say none of his books sold well after "Red Badge."
Ms. DAVIS: Mm-hmm. That's true.
LAMB: And in some way, you make an analysis that he earned an average of 2.7 cents a word when he was writing, but Kipling at the same time made 23 cents a word.
Ms. DAVIS: Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm.
LAMB: Where'd you get that?
Ms. DAVIS: Gosh, I forgot where I got that. One of the Crane scholars did some good digging on that and got the financial records. I didn't do the original research on that. But he sometimes would earn as much as 5 cents a word for stories, but never earned a great deal of money.
LAMB: How many books have been written about Stephen Crane?
Ms. DAVIS: There have been--let's see--you mean biographies. There was an early biography, which isn't really a conventional biography, by Thomas Beer in the 1920s. Then John Berryman wrote a critical biography. R.W. Stallman wrote a biography about 30 years ago. James Colvert wrote a mini-biography for a Harcourt Brace series in the '80s. Christopher Benfey wrote a study about eight years ago, I think. And then mine. So mine is about the sixth book.
LAMB: How is yours different than the others?
Ms. DAVIS: Well, it's the first full-length in 30 years--first full-length biography of Crane since Stallman's. It's not a critical or academic biography. I would describe it as a serious literary biography, but it's perhaps a little more popular in approach than the others.
LAMB: The main character in "The Red Badge of Courage," Henry Fleming, got his name where?
Ms. DAVIS: Fleming was the maiden name of one of Stephen Crane's sisters-in-law. And he used the word--the name Henry a lot. He was a little bit lazy about naming his characters, so he recycled the name Henry a lot.
LAMB: And what was the character Henry Fleming like in "Red Badge?"
Ms. DAVIS: He's a boy who's gone off to join the war, which he thinks is something very romantic because of these very romantic accounts of war he's read as a boy, so he leaves his widowed mother on the farm to go off to fight in the great Civil War. He's very naive and finds the realities of war very different.
LAMB: In a--you say this happens more than once--that he wrote a lot about Henry Fleming's reaction to seeing his first corpse.
Ms. DAVIS: Mm-hmm. Yes. It happens a couple of times in "The Red Badge." It's also a preoccupation with Crane in his writing, not just his war writing; the sight of a dead face or the face of a wounded soldier, what that face reveals to us. One thinks of Hamlet's soliloquy as though you can in reading the eyes of the dead soldier find the answer to what Hamlet called the question--the undiscovered country from whose bourn no traveler returns. I think that's what was in Crane's mind. And it was in Crane's mind because he, himself, was very sickly. I think he knew that he would not live a long life and he was very intrigued by what would happen after life.
LAMB: Where did he get consumption--or, tuberculosis?
Ms. DAVIS: Well, we don't know for sure. I suspect he got it in the household. You usually get TB by repeated exposure to somebody else with an advanced state of the disease, from repeated exposure for many hours a day, for perhaps a month at a time. There is some evidence that Stephen Crane's older brother, William, had TB. But the details are very vague. So we're not absolutely sure. But it does seem to me that he probably contracted it as a boy, that the TB healed, at some point, went into a kind of remission, although he was sickly frequently throughout his adult life. Then he got malaria in the Spanish-American War, which was not great for somebody with--who had bad lungs to begin with, and the TB started to kick in again.
LAMB: Where is he buried, by the way?
Ms. DAVIS: He's buried in Elizabeth, New Jersey.
LAMB: Have you been to all these places that Stephen Crane either lived in or...
Ms. DAVIS: Yes. Yes, I went down to Jacksonville, Florida, and found the beach overlooking where the Commodore ran aground. The Commodore was a filibustering tug Crane went on before the Spanish-American War actually broke out. It was carrying arms to Cuba, and went down off the coast of Cuba. I drove down to Florida; I found the lighthouse along the coast that Crane refers to in "The Open Boat" which was based on this true story of a shipwreck. I went to all the Crane locations in England. I went to Basel, Switzerland, and to Badenweiler, Germany, to see the house where he was buried.
LAMB: Where is this house right here in this picture?
Ms. DAVIS: That's Brede Place, that's in East Sussex, England, and it's a privately owned house.
LAMB: And how long did he--Mr. Crane live there?
Ms. DAVIS: He was there from the time he returned to England from the Spanish-American War, the beginning of 1899, until just before he died, May of 1899.
LAMB: Where are these two pictures from?
Ms. DAVIS: Those were taken on board The Three Friends, which was another filibustering tug in the Spanish-American War. And that's Crane at his seediest, as you can see. It's--was living in either pajamas or soiled duck trousers. Didn't take a bath, stopped shaving, let his hair grow, let his mustache grow about down to his chin, it looks like, and really looked like a degenerate at that point.
LAMB: In the Brede Place over in England, you talk about how they lived quite fancily, or at least they...
Ms. DAVIS: Hmm.
LAMB: ...entertained a lot and he was there with his--I don't know what you'd call her--is--it wasn't his wife, Cora.
Ms. DAVIS: Mm-hmm.
LAMB: And--but they didn't have any money, so what was going on here?
Ms. DAVIS: Mm-hmm. Well, they got a lot of credit. I mean, even in this day before credit cards, you could run up credit at the local butchers and grocers and--you know, with the blacksmith and other people. And they ran up a lot of credit locally, which got them into huge trouble. I've often thought about what life would be like for them now with credit cards and the trouble they would get in now. But they ran up a lot of debt. They were constantly sending flares out to Crane's English agent, the long-suffering James Pinker, asking him to advance the money. And he advanced them hundreds of pounds out-of-pocket, which Crane did not earn back before he died.
LAMB: How long did Cora live?
Ms. DAVIS: Cora did not live too many years after Crane--just 10 years. She died in 1910 at the age of 46.
LAMB: Was she older than--obviously, older than...
Ms. DAVIS: Just six years older than Crane.
LAMB: You say in the book that he wrote between midnight and 4 in the morning.
Ms. DAVIS: Mm-hmm.
LAMB: When do you write?
Ms. DAVIS: Oh, not during that time. I write when I get my kids off to school. That's my best time, from about 9 or 10 in the morning till 1 or 2 in the afternoon. They're on different school schedules, so I have to adjust it somewhat. But that's a--three or four hours a day are about all I'm good for, except if my back is to the wall and I really have to do more than that. I just find that my concentration wanes after that. I suppose because I'm not 28 like Stephen Crane was, so I can't...
LAMB: And what impact did it have on him that he wrote in the middle of the night? What was the reason for that?
Ms. DAVIS: The house was quiet. He was living at his brother's house a lot of the time. His brother had a family, and there were a lot of kids and a lot of noise around. And he would wait until the family went to bed and climb up to this little attic room and write late at night when it was completely quiet and then he'd sleep till about lunchtime.
LAMB: You have a picture in the book of--I guess we'd--I think we used to call in the service hot bedding in--you know, they do it in the submarines where same people sleep in the bed around the clock. What's this all about? Where is this?
Ms. DAVIS: This is--this was taken in the Art Students League Building or the old Art Students League Building in New York. A lot of artists were living there and Crane was bunking with a bunch of other guys in this studio. And they would sleep three to a bed and there was a cot. And the fourth fellow would take the cot. Stephen Crane is the one on the left. His head is sort of turned in. And some of the other fellas came in and found him and one of the other guys asleep one morning and as a joke, piled up all the shoes that they all owned collectively at the foot of the bed and took the picture. They had kind of a community closet of clothes and shoes and whoever had a job interview that day and had to look really nice or whoever was up first in the morning would get the best pick of the clothes and shoes.
LAMB: Where is this from?
Ms. DAVIS: That is a photograph of a beautiful painting which hangs at the University of Virginia in the Clifton Waller Barrett collection, which is the Stephen Crane collection, at the Alderman Library. It is a photograph of an oil painting done by Stephen Crane's artist friend, Corwin Knapp Linson when Stephen Crane had written "The Red Badge of Courage." And it's absolutely beautiful in life. You know, that doesn't catch the colors at all.
LAMB: You said a lot earlier that you grew to like him...
Ms. DAVIS: Mm-hmm.
LAMB: Stephen Crane.
Ms. DAVIS: Mm-hmm.
LAMB: What is it that you liked about him?
Ms. DAVIS: Well, he was very young and very full of the devil and a lot of fun. He had a wonderful sense of humor. He was very boyish because he was always very young. We both share a fondness for dogs and horses and horseback riding. And a preference for the color red. He loved the company of his friends. He was a wonderful, charming talker. A lot of writers can't talk. They--even if they can write beautifully, they can't talk. Crane could talk beautifully. I think he was extremely well-intentioned and kind-hearted. He got into a lot of trouble, but he was well-meaning. He was a good friend. And he had that indefinable something we call charisma. He was the sort of person who walked into a room and created a kind of magic. One of his friends said, `He was a very alive person, even when he was sitting and observing in a room and being very quiet.' He was so alive that his friend Yar Woodriff said that the news of his death seemed a mistake.
LAMB: What did you think when you found out that he had spent nine months away from Cora and didn't communicate with anybody?
Ms. DAVIS: Well...
LAMB: And what was that all about?
Ms. DAVIS: Yeah. He was not actually incommunicado for nine months. He was away from--the time he left England for the Spanish-American War, he was away for nine months altogether. When the Spanish-American War ended during the summer of 1898, we hadn't kind of tied up all the loose ends yet. Stephen Crane disappeared into the bowels of Havana for four months--that's when he was incommunicado--and apparently tried to desert Cora--went into hiding, first at a hotel, then at a boarding house; communicated with no one except his agent. Took to his room, didn't even see the correspondence very much.
LAMB: This is Cora here.
Ms. DAVIS: Mm-hmm. As for what I thought of him: I'm reminded of something somebody else said about biography. I think it was another biographer, but I don't remember who, who said that there's a point in every biography when the biographer falls out of love with the subject. And I didn't exactly fall out of love with my subject, but I was quite disappointed in him. He behaved very badly. She was absolutely broke in England, desperate for money.
LAMB: And this is her also...
Ms. DAVIS: Mm-hmm.
LAMB: to Stephen Crane. She's--I guess you write her to be rather plump or...
Ms. DAVIS: Mm-hmm.
LAMB: What was his attraction to her?
Ms. DAVIS: Well, I think she didn't photograph well, to be fair to her. Also, a lot of women in the late 19th century were plump. I mean, they didn't have to be thin to be considered attractive--attractive, and she's not wearing a corset there. This was taken at Brede Place, where she rather let herself go. She started making these homespun garments and she would let her hair down, which was rather shocking. You always had your hair done up when other people were around, although she has her hair done up in that photograph.
LAMB: When was this taken? This is a photograph of her.
Ms. DAVIS: Yeah. That was taken before she met Crane. She has her corset on in that picture. This was when she was still married in--married to and living with Captain Stewart. I think that was taken some years before she met Crane. She had--the attraction...
LAMB: 1889.
Ms. DAVIS: Mm-hmm. The attraction--Crane's attraction to her--she actually was a very attractive woman in person. She had beautiful golden-blond hair that it was--it was such a beautiful shade of golden-blond that a lot of people thought she dyed her hair, but she didn't. She had beautiful coloring. She was intelligent. She was literate. She absolutely adored him. She was a woman who knew how to take care of herself. She had been well traveled. She was a woman who knew how to function independently; very--very loyal to him.
LAMB: Now where did he get the name "Red Badge of Courage?"
Ms. DAVIS: Well, now we don't know for sure. My idea--first of all, it appears in the novel. When Henry Fleming gets a wound, he is arguing with a soldier. He's accidentally hit in the head by the end of a rifle--gets a rifle butt. This creates his `red badge of courage.' I think, however, that Crane might have got the idea for using that line in the novel and then later titling his book, "Red Badge of Courage," from Jacob Rise's--or Riis' book, "How The Other Half Lives" which was a photographic study of tenement life in the Lower East Side. Crane was familiar with it. And Jacob Riis repeatedly uses the word `badge' as a metaphor. Most strikingly, there's the phrase, `the white badge of mourning,' which even scans the same as `the red badge of courage.' "The Red Badge of Courage" was not the original title of the novel, however. It was `Private Fleming: His Various Battles.'
LAMB: When did they change it?
Ms. DAVIS: Stephen Crane changed it before publication, before he actually submitted it. He put it on the final copy of the manuscript.
LAMB: Now after you got all your research done and wrote this book, go back to the beginning and tell us what impact this had on you as it relates to your--the story of your father saving you or trying to save you from that fire.
Ms. DAVIS: Hm.
LAMB: Did it work out for you, I mean, working through this whole thing?
Ms. DAVIS: Yes. Actually, something very strange happened, and I don't remember exactly how long I'd been researching the book. I hadn't started writing it yet, but I was pretty steeped in Stephen Crane at this point. I was continuing to have these nightmares about my father in which I could never see his face. He would appear to me in a pitch-black room, for instance. And I'd be straining my eyes through the darkness to see him. I couldn't see him. Or he was standing at a distance with his back turned to me or he was bandaged. But I was never able to see his face.

At some point, when I was very steeped in Stephen Crane, I had a flashback, not an actual dream, in which I could very clearly see myse--I was a child again, probably about seven or eight years old, standing in the kitchen in our house in Ft. Rucker. My father was standing at the kitchen counter making one of his Chef Boyardee pepperoni pizzas which he liked to make. And he turned around to say something to me and grinned an--my father had this wonderful smile and beautiful straight, white teeth. And I--and I remember very clearly seeing this grin from the perspective of a child who would be looking up at an adult and smiling at me. And I could just suddenly see him in a way I've never been able to see him. I mean, he died in 1961, so that was a long time. It had been about 30 years since the fire or longer than that.

So I think that the deeper I dug into Stephen Crane, the more I found myself. You know, Flaubert once said when he was writing "Madame Bovary"--I think it was at the end of the book, after insisting for years that Madame Bovary" was nothing like him, had nothing to do with him, at the end he was forced to admit, `Madame Bovary c'est moi.' And I got to that point where I said to myself, `Stephen Crane c'est moi.' It was--the deeper I dug the more I found myself.
LAMB: You went to Syracuse to study what?
Ms. DAVIS: I was just in the college of liberal arts.
LAMB: Did you go on from there to any other school?
Ms. DAVIS: I did. I went to graduate school in Boston. I got a master's degree in English at Simmons.
LAMB: In what?
Ms. DAVIS: In English.
LAMB: So after--this is your second book?
Ms. DAVIS: Mm-hmm.
LAMB: You got a third one planned?
Ms. DAVIS: Well, I do. I don't know whether my publisher wants it yet. I've been kind of lazy about finishing the proposal. But I'd like to do a Civil War biography of Joshua Chamberlain, who was commander of the 20th Maine Division at Gettysburg, and do just a biography covering only the three years during which he served in the Civil War.
LAMB: Why?
Ms. DAVIS: Well, I think it's the Crane influence again. It's being so steeped in his war writing. Also, I'm a soldier's daughter and so I think it's the combination of being a soldier's daughter and coming to love great war writing through Stephen Crane. I want to write my own war tale, but non-fiction.
LAMB: So for those interested either in war or in being a journalist or in being a writer, if they pick up your book, "Badge of Courage," what will they--what do you hope that they take away from this that they might not have known before?
Ms. DAVIS: I hope they take away a sense of how life intersects with writing, of how the two are constantly folding into each other, of what Edith Wharton called `the discipline of the daily task,' which Stephen Crane knew, of how reality for a writer, even a non-fiction writer like me, can really have more to do with the life the writer is creating on paper sometimes than the life the writer is actually living out in the world.
LAMB: Linda H. Davis, author of "Badge of Courage: The Life of Stephen Crane," thank you very much for joining us.
Ms. DAVIS: Thank you.

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